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Name-calling is a form of ad hominem attack that draws a vague equivalence between a concept and a person, group or idea. By linking the person or idea being attacked to a negative symbol, the propagandist hopes that the audience will reject the person or the idea on the basis of the symbol, instead of looking at the available evidence.

The Institute for Propaganda Analysis (IPA), one of the first organizations to systematically study propaganda in the early 20th century, included name-calling in its list of common rhetorical techniques. "Bad names have played a tremendously powerful role in the history of the world and in our own individual development," they stated. "They have ruined reputations, stirred men and women to outstanding accomplishments, sent others to prison cells, and made men mad enough to enter battle and slaughter their fellowmen. They have been and are applied to other people, groups, gangs, tribes, colleges, political parties, neighborhoods, states, sections of the country, nations, and races." [1]

Examples of name calling include:

According to the IPA, we should ask ourselves the following questions when we spot an example of name-calling:

  • What does the name mean?
  • Does the idea in question have a legitimate connection with the real meaning of the name?
  • Is an idea that serves my best interests being dismissed through giving it a name I don't like?
  • Leaving the name out of consideration, what are the merits of the idea itself?

See also

External links

  • "Name calling," from the Propaganda Critic, a web site devoted to propaganda analysis